How cancelled film screening sparked a bitter row at Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club

A bitter row has erupted in Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club over a planned film screening to mark the 101st birthday of former war correspondent Clare Hollingworth (pictured).

The film was produced by her great nephew Patrick Garrett, a former news editor with both UK and US broadcasters.

He says an agreement to screen the film was abruptly withdrawn by the FCC after a dispute involving another FCC member Ted Thomas .

According to Garrett, Thomas objected to the film being shown because just under four minutes of the total 43-minute film refer to a court case involving the handling of Hollingworth’s finances.

According to Garrett, Hollingworth’s 101st year “is likely to be marked with her own bankruptcy”.

He said: “The FCC board discussed Ted Thomas’ threat of legal consequences were the film to be shown, and the club’s president later advised that the invitation to show the film at a club event had now been withdrawn. 

“But in reality any legal risk from showing the film must be negligible because the offending sequence involves direct quotations of High Court judgments that are already published in full on the Hong Kong Judiciary’s website.

 “Were the film to have included opinion and speculation (instead of direct citation of published High Court judgments) the FCC board’s concern might be understandable. But the words of the High Court judge, legally speaking, could not be safer. They are already public record. The summary of Clare’s financial and legal problems represents a very small part of an extensive documentary about her entire life.”

Garrett said: “I respect and sympathise with the FCC President who is attempting to reconcile different vested interests within the club. But I certainly hope that a sensible outcome will be reached that will do the Foreign Correspondents’ Club credit as an organisation that supports accurate and honest reporting.”

He noted that ever since her first scoop from the front lines of the Second World War in 1939 Clare Hollingworth fought against censorship. The fascist Iron Guard tried to arrest her in Bucharest in 1940 over the stories she wrote from Romania.

Garrett said: “But she never stopped struggling to get the truth out, reporting from across Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia during a career that spanned over half a century.”

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